Town Hall meetings provide updates on Advancing Our Vision

Author: Brendan O'Shaughnessy

John Affleck Graves

A new wellness center on campus, a staff early retirement option, and the protection of jobs and benefits were notable results of the Advancing Our Vision initiative presented in the Faculty Address and Town Hall meetings held last week.

President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., announced that the Strategic Funding Committee he created in February had reviewed the budget and identified $30 million in recurring expenses or potential revenue that could be redirected to fund top University priorities. He said this represents about 3 percent of the total budget and will help Notre Dame continue its momentum during a period that has caused many other universities to scale back their plans for progress, lay off employees, or cut pay and benefits.

He also told capacity crowds of faculty and staff members that the generosity of Notre Dame benefactors and the sacrifices of tuition-paying families meant “we were obliged to take a hard look at ourselves to see if we could find resources to advance the vision of Notre Dame, even if this demanded something of all of us.”

Father Jenkins said the Committee’s goal was to protect jobs, salaries and benefits; instead, some perks unique to Notre Dame will end. These include a 20 percent discount on the purchase of football tickets and a cell phone policy that has had few restrictions. He pointed out that employees will still have the option to buy season tickets and do not have to pay a seat license or minimum contribution like other season ticket buyers.

Father Jenkins rejected a recommendation from the Committee to impose a general fee for parking. But he did say that fees are likely once it becomes necessary to build a structured parking facility sometime in the next five years. There will also be reserved spots on campus available for a fee.

Executive Vice President John Affleck-Graves, who joined Father Jenkins for Town Hall meetings, said early retirements will not be fully replaced, requiring some reorganization and some employees to pick up extra duties. He also said each division can decide how to reorganize to accommodate the losses.

“What we heard from your recommendations on the website was that there are things we could stop doing because they are unnecessary,” Affleck-Graves said. “We will all have to pick up some slack but we also have to ask ourselves what we can do more efficiently.”

Many of the questions related to the announcement of a new wellness center for employees and their families. The facility, which is scheduled to begin construction soon and open next July, will be located in the northeast area of campus at Wilson Avenue and Bulla Road. Hours of operation are expected to be 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8-12 a.m. Saturday.

Affleck-Graves said the new facility is not intended to replace an employee’s primary care physician, but it will offer convenience that can save time compared to an off-campus trip to a busy doctor’s office and pharmacy. The center will offer services ranging from flu shots and health screenings to physical therapy and a pharmacy.

Father Jenkins said the committee also focused on process improvements. Programs like the online TravelND and the new VoIP phones show how new technology can offer better service while also preserving the University’s resources for top priorities.

Father Jenkins said the Committee identified the money for reallocation; he will consult with Affleck-Graves and Provost Tom Burish about specific decisions on where to invest these resources. Broadly, Advancing Our Vision will fund new faculty positions to further strengthen teaching and research, provide financial aid to meet the growing needs of students, and enhance staff support, libraries and infrastructure to accomplish Notre Dame’s academic mission of teaching and inquiry.

Affleck-Graves gave other updates at the Town Halls:

  • The Morris Inn will be expanded from 92 to 137 rooms with more space in each, an exterior consistent with the campus and an indoor ballroom that can host events all year. The renovation is scheduled for completion in the spring of 2014.
  • Summer tuition is expected to increase over the next two years to match peer institutions.
  • Employees were encouraged to save money by using buyND for procurement and networked printers that serve several offices.
  • The evacuation of the stadium during lightning storms underscored the importance of creating a culture of safety on campus.
  • The Compton Family Ice Arena will open in October and the Stayer Center for Executive Education is scheduled for completion in 2013.

Pictured: Executive Vice President John Affleck-Graves